Black Stacked Circles by Ibrahim Said – Curators’ Pick
Annie Carlano, Curator of Craft, Design, & Fashion, shares one of her favorite works in The Mint Museum’s Collection. Black Stacked Circles by Ibrahim Said is an intricately carved ceramic sculpture on view at Mint Museum Uptown.
The Mint Museum From Home is Presented By Chase.
Through the Lens
New photography installations tell the stories of people and places, past and present
By Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, Chief Curator & Curator of Contemporary Art
Over the last year, the Mint has been exposing its members to more photography, both in the galleries and online. On March 22, 2020—as it happened, one day before the museum closed to the public due to Covid-19—the Mint installed a mid-career survey of Charlotte photographer Linda Foard Roberts only a few weeks before she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Extended through December 2021, the exhibition Responsibilities in Representing explores eight series from Foard Roberts’s career, each showcasing a different relationship between an image maker and her subject. Some are loved ones—friends after cancer diagnoses, her children as they grew into their own—captured at pivotal moments when they found steel in their fragile mortality. Some are invisible traces, as in her most recent series Lament, a song of sorrow for those not heard, which explores Southern spaces that both marked racial divisions and allowed for liberation of the enslaved. When she photographs the natural world—mist on a lake, an aged oak—the results embody the human history of those spaces, allowing viewers to transcend the limitations of the physical world.
Although her images have an ethereal quality, due in part to the large-format camera and cracked 19th-century lenses that Foard Roberts often uses, they are also sober reminders of the cycle of life and continuous history in which we all live. These dynamics are so vivid in the work because Foard Roberts feels them herself. In her book Passages, Foard Roberts writes, “Southern landscapes are inherently scarred and stained by an oppressive past. It is difficult to reflect on Southern land without the shadow of sadness from our history; and I can’t escape that my roots are dusted with these injustices. This work is driven by a longing to connect with this land and for a miraculous healing from its past.”
Work from Foard Roberts Lament series is also included in the W|ALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine exhibition that is on view at Mint Museum Uptown. W|ALLS was originally scheduled to open in May 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. Shipping crates containing much of the show were delayed, and the Annenberg Space for Photography— the originator of the show—was forced to permanently close its doors after 10 years of visionary shows, and gifted the exhibition prints to the Mint. Through more than 130 photos by 67 photographers across the globe, W|ALLS explores various aspects of barriers whether they are made of stone, steel, sand, or wire. The exhibition will be divided into six sections—Delineation, Defense, Deterrent, The Divine, Decoration, and The Invisible—with each section anchored by a central photo essay.
In addition to these two photography shows on view in the galleries, the Mint’s first online exhibition: Expanding the Pantheon: Women R Beautiful launched on the Mint’s website in November 2020. It presents 26 portraits by Ruben Natal-San Miguel, whose Mama became an audience favorite when it joined the collection in 2018. Natal-San Miguel photographs subjects not historically seen on museum walls, and his new series continues that project, presenting feminine beauty in a myriad of shades—literally and symbolically. In addition to Mama, two other online images—Mary C. Curtis (Journalist) and Three Muslim Women—can be seen in the Contemporary Galleries. They were donated to the museum last year thanks to the generosity of Dana Martin Davis (who also donated Mama) and Natal-San Miguel.
As art historian Coco Fusco observes in the book Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self, “The photographic image plays a central role in American culture.” We have seen this most prominently in the press, advertising, and social media, and we will continue to examine its effects through our photography exhibitions at the Mint. Look for an increased presence of photography online and in the galleries in the coming years.
This story was originally published in the January, 2021 issue of Inspired, the Mint’s biannual member magazine.
Stephen Compton: From Jugtown Pottery to hyalyn Porcelain: A Collector’s Journey
Delhom Service League Studio Visit
Steve Compton discusses his history as a collector of NC pottery, and how his interest led him to become a noted researcher and author. Steve shares details about his collection of pottery, now including over 2,000 pieces, and some of the many books he has authored.
Just part of the story: A chat with Constellation CLT artist de’Angelo Dia
By Rubie R. Britt-Height, Director of Community Relations at The Mint Museum
In September 2008, after 20 years away from Charlotte, I was drawn back to the Queen City and its art scene by what felt like a magnetic force and wide-open door. I was coming from the prestigious Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as its community affairs director. I had worked with numerous amazing statewide artists, yet the springing up of talented Charlotte artists was nothing I had experienced. Charlotte and the Carolinas were rich with young, creative, thoughtful minds, and The Mint Museum was where I saw myself. At that time, it was showcasing a Charlotte-born, renowned artist whose work I loved—Romare Bearden. At the same time, the Mint was presenting an exhibition called A Contemporary Look at the Black Male Image. Two wows! I was impressed.
As I settled in the City once again, in summer of 2009, I was invited by God City artist-educator John R. Hairston, Jr. to the opening night of a NoDa art show that he and artist de’Angelo Dia had put together to debut their latest works. The atmosphere, the creative works, and the vibe of North Davidson were soulful, and light. I knew Hairston as this hip surrealist artist, and he introduced me to Dia. We chatted, he showed me his work, and we discussed his artistic views, society, and what he envisioned. It was a great show.
After that, I engaged the God City art collective members, including Dia, to engage with the Mint’s Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program as enlightened artist-educators that our students could engage with, and who were young, cool, and looked like them. God City connected with the students like a magnet, and Dia’s sessions brought out the best in the students’ abilities to be critical thinkers. They talked about current events, what they would do if they were the mayor, and how they could change their community by changing how they viewed themselves and “Griertown.” He was a newer member of the God City, and art, education, and social activism seemed his platform too, especially with young minds.
As an instructor at Trinity Episcopal School and through the Mint’s Grier Heights art program, Dia challenged his students and they enjoyed his teaching style and socially-conscious poetry. I also invited Dia to the Mint to present on his service projects, where youth were introduced to the concept of being more spiritual, with introspection, and of giving back to the community, and learning to delve deeper within to discover their own style and individuality.
Over a short time, Dia branched into several modes of art exploration, including photography, poetry, creative writing, oral presentations, and painting. Interestingly, he also was drawn into religious studies and received a Master of Divinity degree. He intertwined his growth as a young radical artist and theologian with his desire to be a social activist through his works of art and his engagement with youth in the Black church. He currently serves as the minister of social justice at St. Paul Baptist Church in Charlotte where he is known as Reverend de’Angelo Dia.
Dia’s Constellation CLT installation is on view at Mint Museum Uptown through March 7. I had a chance to recently chat with Dia and see where he was with creating this body of work on exhibition at Mint Museum Uptown, his art projects, his religion, his thinking, and his latest vibe.
RBH: What was your inspiration in creating these works featured in Constellation CLT?
Dia: Works featured in Constellation CLT are part of an on-going passion project. At this point, I have created 70 large-scale pastel drawings exploring representation and the celebration of creating cultures within a culture. The works of Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein inspired this collection. The book Where the Wild Things Are was the Holy Grail for me as a kid, however, I couldn’t identify with the main character Max, so I decided to place my cultural embodiment into Max and the Wild Things and create a pantheon of original characters. Each drawing was created at Goodyear Arts while listening to the works of assorted jazz artists (Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ghost Tree). Each drawing has a poem reflective of what I was theologically and culturally processing at the time.
RBH: In relation to your installation and viewing today’s America amid a divide, at what phase do you see African American art and culture as social commentary/activism?
Dia: African American art and culture has always been a mirror to America, exposing its hypocrisy and systemic oppression. The work of AfriCOBRA, Emory Douglas, Elizabeth Catlett, Gordon Parks and so many others exemplify this. However, I want to be clear, African American art and culture are not a monolith. Through this body of work, I am attempting to balance the tension of processing our daily reality of being Black in America, to highlight our resilience and tenacity, and to celebrate our inherent ability to thrive amidst a divisive social and political climate. The childlike elements of these drawings are my attempt to reclaim my own sense of Black Boy Joy with the understanding that joy is an act of resistance. These drawings are reminiscent of my drawing style in the second and third grade before any teacher attempted to socialize a “standard of quality art,” which often hinders the creative spirit.
RBH: Art is a catalyst for change. How do you view that perspective, and how can artists and art today bring about positive change in America?
Dia: Again, this goes back to representation for me. Representation in creatives, and creations and experiences inspire and ignite social movements that supersede any of my academic training.
RBH: Does poetry and theology impact your approach to your visual works of art? If so, in what way?
Dia: Absolutely. Poetry and visual art coexist as theological outlets for me. Every drawing is preceded with a writing prompt intended to help me gain a better understanding of self, others, the communities I navigate and negotiate with. Writing is my primary outlet and my area of academic training, and yet I cannot separate the literary from the visual. This body of work was always intended for me. They are my mind maps, holistic outlet, visual journals. For example, Epiphany, which is on display in this collection, was my template for a poem titled shallow words. With deep investigation, the viewer can find the words “what if I was your child” throughout the drawing. This is in reference to the biblical children of Israel, Isaac, one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites, and in a contemporary context every Black and Brown child of God killed as a result of power and authority. “What if” is also a reference to a Marvel comics anthology series of alternate reality stories titled What If?
RBH: You noted being a comic book scholar? What does that entail and how did you arrive there?
Dia: I earned a master’s in literature from UNC Charlotte. My thesis project was “Black Images in Comics: An examination of what does 200 years of cartoon images depicting Black people tell us about ourselves.” The images displayed for Constellation CLT are a continuation of this study. While the comics scholar in me values and appreciates the impressive archeology of images that present Black history, this work is a visceral reminder of the barrage of racist depictions intentionally created to oppress us. Currently, I am working on my doctorate with a proposed dissertation topic of theopoetics, an interdisciplinary field of study that combines elements of poetics, narrative theology, and postmodern philosophy. My comic passion was sparked by Milestone Media, a comic company created by three Black men with the intent to provide a diverse spectrum of representation in comics. Comics have always been one of the mediums intended for theological analysis (i.e. God is Disappointed in You, 2013, Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler).
RBH: With thoughts of the fantastical and your love for comic books, who are your most celebrated superheroes/sheroes? If you could create one, what attributes would he/she possess?
Dia: I love this question and it is a tough question because there are so many amazing characters to select from. Shaft (Richard Roundtree) was my gateway to superheroes. His Blackness was and is his superpower. I recommend Shaft written by David F. Walker (Dynamite Entertainment). Luke Cage (written and drawn by Genndy Tartakovsky) and Misty Knight (Marvel Knights), who deserves her own comic series, are two street-level characters presenting a slice of Black life that is relatable. Two series I recommend are Excellence and Bitter Root both produced by Image Comics, written and drawn by creatives of color. If there was a comic character I would love to write about, it would be Doctor Voodoo (Marvel Comics with art created by artist Wolly McNair and Marcus Kiser, inked by Reco Renzi. This would be a dream project. If I could create a character, the attributes would be resilience, tenacity, creativity, and the superpower would be superspeed. Often, there is never enough time in a day to accomplish all I desire to do.
RBH: Which world or American leaders and artists have most impacted your life and works of art?
• Poet, professor, Jericho Brown (The Tradition) for his narrative transparency.
• Poet, professor, Gary Jackson (Missing You, Metropolis) for his beautiful work that is a hybrid of introspection and comic mythology.
• Poet, educator, and should be the Poet Laureate of Wakanda, Nikki Giovanni for the diversity and scope of her work.
• Artist Brain Stelfreeze for his incredible art and more than that, his compassion and willingness to take time to talk with emerging artists.
• TJ Reddy (August 1945-March 2019) for constantly reminding me that creativity and sleep are acts of defiance.
• My parents, Betty and Charlie Jessup, for providing me with creative outlets for artistic expression, introducing me to the music of Parliament Funkadelic, and affirming Black Boy Joy.
• Growing up I thought Shel Silverstein was Black, so I am going to give him honorable mention.
RBH: What is your preferred art medium and why?
Dia: I love drawing, it is a basic instinct. I have a passion for photography, and it is perhaps the best medium to consistently document our collective narratives. However, writing is in my primal nature. I will always find comfort with writing. It was the first artistic outlet that made me feel at home.
RBH: How do you hope your works of art will impact the viewer?
Dia: I hope viewers see them as a reflection of childhood, joy, and solidarity.
RBH: What’s next for you with respect to art projects, works, inspirations?
Dia: I had work recently published in the anthology 2020: The Year that Changed America edited by Kevin Powell. I am currently working on a chapbook that will be part of my doctoral dissertation, which will include poetry and drawings. I am contributing to a performance titled Codex with performance arts members of the Goodyear Arts Collective. I am also working on a performance inspired by the life and music of Marvin Gaye. This is a collaboration with sound artist Dylan Gilbert.
Get to know artist Gisela Colón
Artist Gisela Colón joins Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Mint, for a discussion on her evolution as an artist, her transition from her home island of Puerto Rico to her adopted home of Los Angeles, and her mesmerizing techniques and unique art projects. Colón’s work was on view in the Mint’s recent exhibition In Vivid Color.
The discussion concludes with a Q&A segment where Colón answers questions previously submitted by the Mint audience.
Studio Visit with Amy Sanders and Ron Philbeck
Delhom Service League
Amy and Ron discuss their individual work, and then discuss their collaboration on a series of work created during the pandemic. While their individual work is very different, their collaborative work has been very popular and a great learning process for them both. If you would like to see more of their work, you can visit their individual websites, amysanderspottery.com and ronphilbeckpottery.com. Both potters are scheduled to be exhibitors at the Delhom’s Potters Market at the Mint on Sept. 25, 2021.
Jamil Dyair Steele’s “Black Lives Matter” mural – Curators’ Pick
Local artist and educator Jamil Dyair Steele painted this powerful mural after the death of George Floyd and amid the protests that took place around the United States during the summer of 2020. Decorating the chipboard that was used to cover business windows in preparation of the protests, artists around the city of Charlotte subverted the implicit gesture of racism that assumed criminal violence would inevitably be present at a Black Lives Matter march.
Steele’s mural is on view at Mint Museum Uptown in the Carroll Gallery. It is free for the public to view.
Leah Leitson Ceramics: Then and Now
Delhom Service League Studio Visit
Join the Delhom Service League as they Leah Leitson, ceramic artist and educator based in Asheville NC. She discusses her career in ceramics from her first interest as a studio potter to her current role as Professor of Ceramics at Warren Wilson College. For more information about Leah, you can visit her website at www.leahleitson.com.
Untitled (Shield) by Elizabeth Talford Scott – Curators’ Pick
In celebration of Black History Month, Annie Carlano, Senior Director of Craft, Design & Fashion, shares details about Untitled (Shield) by nationally renowned fiber artist Elizabeth Talford Scott. Untitled (Shield) is on view in the fiber art gallery of the craft and design gallery at Mint Museum Uptown.
Film produced by SmARTlab
The Mint Museum from Home is presented by Chase.
The queen in Netflix’s hit series “Bridgerton” is none other than Charlotte’s Charlotte
Charlotte’s Charlotte is part of The Mint Museum’s permanent collection and is currently in the traveling exhibition Under Construction: Collage from The Mint Museum, which is about to open at the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, TN. It will then travel to the Knoxville Museum of Art later in the year before returning to Charlotte.
“Using the history of art as my playground, I toy with paintings from the past, and I connect them to the present,” says Ken Aptekar. His Charlotte’s Charlotte references Mint Museum Randolph’s 1772 coronation portrait of Queen Charlotte by Allan Ramsay. By appropriating Ramsay’s imagery and adding his own original text on sandblasted panels that hover above the surface of repainted details excerpted from the original painting, Aptekar initiates a dialogue between his work, Ramsay’s painting, and the viewer.
Prior to creating Charlotte’s Charlotte, Aptekar met with diverse groups within the community to gain a better understanding of what Queen Charlotte means to Charlotteans. Words and phrases such as BLACK WHITE OTHER and IMMIGRANT reflect the distinct voices of the Charlotte community and function as a means of eliciting a variety of interpretations. With these texts overlaying the paintings, Aptekar intentionally addresses the issue of Queen Charlotte’s race (she was of North African, Portuguese, and German descent) and invites us to compare the implications of ethnic identity at the time of Ramsay’s portrait, and the multiplicity of meanings that this may hold for contemporary viewers.